Post-Modern Christianity, Post-Modern War

(tdaxp‘s note: This post was originally entitled Reviews of The Facade by Michael S. Heiser and Perelandra by C.S. Lewis, and was written in a state of near exhaustion on by flight from Minneapolis to Tokyo. However, it evolved in an interesting direction and I decided to finish it abruptly in order to get feedback from the blogosphere’s more enthusiastic theorists of the nature of war. I apologize for its incoherence.)

Two academics. Two novels.

the_facade_perelandra

One SecretWar.


I. Introduction

In a recent post, Purpleslog questioned my use of the term Pre-Modern Warfare. He wrote that he prefered the acronym 0GW, for the Zeroth Generation of Modern Warfare.

From a terminological perspective it would not matter one way or another. At worst, a “wrong” term would be like defining inflation as an increase in real prices — it may mislead you in terms of implications, but as long as you use words carefully it should not matter.

However, Purpelslog is clearly onto something. To quote his thought

I am leaning toward the idea of 1GW thru 5GW have always existed (and dropping the Pre-Modern war idea, or re-characterizing it as 0GW). The way to think about them is not historical time periods or types of technologies, but general methods and the part of the OODA they center on.

If this is true, it throws T.X. Hammes classifcation of modern styles of warfare into doubt. Modernism is an innovation — something that has not always been with us, and one day shall go away. Whether or not it is a Bright Shining Lie, it is clear that the modern perspective is fleeting. Thus 0GW, rather than being different from 1GW, 2GW, 3GW (LightningWar), 4GW (NetWar), 5GW (SecretWar), etc in terms of “coming first,” it is merely less advanced in William Lind’s sense of dialectical quality shift. In any far fight a “Pre-Modern” 0GW force will be trounced by a 1GW forces, not because w)gw is timeless nad 1GW is timely, but by their very natures,

It is with this background, of Modern’s fleeting naturr and 5GWs murderous eidelon, that I present a review of two “5th Generation” Christian books.

Michael S. Heiser is as C.S. Lewis was. Both are linguistic academics, Dr, Heiser from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in ancient Semetic languages, Dr. Lewis studying Mideval French in his native England. Both began writing during the birth of great wars, Lewis witnessing the rise of the centralizing Nazis, Facists, and Social Democrats, Heiser under al Qaeda and their kin. And both attempt, through science fiction, to argue that the Modern worldview is fundamentally wrong.

II. The Modern World

Modernism divides up the world, into the “natural” and “supernatural” (among other categories). Because both Perelandra and The Facade involve space aliens, it’s worth while to give Modernist explanations of this phenomenon. And, because modern would see things as useful and harmful, we can create a 2×2 matrix

Useful

Harmful
Natural Alien Visitors who we can learn from Hallucinations that indicate a pscychophysiological ailment
Supernatural Friendly Angels Hostile Demons

A similar breakdown was outlined by my blogfriend Mark Safranski, who wrote

Rational thought has an epistemology rooted in reality (it respects unwelcome data) and methodological consistency. It can be in error but the error is honest ( bad data, mistaken premise)not dishonest. It relies upon logic and proof and rejects the supernatural, unknowable, undefinable source as a legitimate basis for knowledge.

Because Modernism generally regards supernatural explanations as epistemologically unsound, it defaults to the natural explanation. Carl Sagan, in his excellent The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, clearly prefers to psycho-physiological explanation. Zacharia Sitchin and Erich von Danken, in works with significantly less academic honesty, see space aliens.

To the extent that Modern would allow the supernatural at all, it would define it as another plain or dimension, allowing that perhaps the Hindu Myths actually happened elsewhere, but in an elsewhere that no time machine or rocket ship could ever travel to.

Yet what if the universe is unModern?

III. An Unmodern Theology

Both Perelandra nad The Facade present space aliens as actually existing. Both use conventions of their times, Lewis relying on Jules Vernesque description of Mars and Venus, Heiser presenting spindly foetid Greys. Yet neither respects the Modern natural-supernatural boundary. Spaceships in Lewis’ world take us to actions that Modernists would allow only in different planes — temptation in a Garden and wrestling with an angel, for instance. It is equally clear from Perelandra, however, that earthly religion is not merely some misunderstanding of the events but the truest understanding of them.

Heiser accomplishes the same thing. While The Facade‘s plot structure relies on deliberate ambiguity and deception, making it difficult to summarize, the narrative quickly introduces The Watchers. Prominently featured in the ancient Book of Enoch and possibly the same as the Giants in Genesis 6, the Watchers are technological beings with desire for control in this world. “Sons of God,” these creatures are mortal and can deceive as they are deceived. Their conflict is with a Council, headed by God, but involving things as mundane as train schedules and technology transfers.

The unModern nature of these systems is central to understanding them, so I will emphasize it again. From the ancient Greeks on, Modern and proto-Modern thinkers have insisted that what we see is our reality, and that other realities either don’t exist or are accessible only in ways that do not change our reality. (Thus, a Modern thinker will admit the healing powers of prayer, because the benefits of a positive outlook are well known, but would grant that God answers prayers only in ways that are not statistically significant.) Both The Facade and Perelandra reject the idea of parallel realities, insisting on one united reality in which the natural and supernatural as equally “here.”

IV. Post-Modernity

One way to separate the pre-Modern from the Modern might be by judging acceptance of the Law of Cause and Effect. A happens, therefore B happens. We drop a ball, therefore it falls. However, numerous writers and thinkers have rejected this noition. Perhaps the most influential was Imam al-Ghazali, author of The Incoherence of the Philosophers, who argued that there were no natural causes at all, and that everything happens because God wants it to. A similar philosophy was espoused by Jean Cauvin, known here as Christian talib John Calvin. As a Muslim world still suffering under the weight of al-Ghazali’s retrograde philosophy might attest, acceptance of the Law of Cause and Effect is a requiremet for the development of science.

If the thesis then is there is no cause and effect — things just happen because spirits desire them too — and the antithesis is hte law of cause and effect — b happens because a — the syntehsis might be an acceptance of the reality of cause and effects cautioned with unknowability. That is, A happens because B physically forced it to happen, but we will never know that. This is the acceptance of Rules in this World, but in dark places.

Under this criterea, 5GW SecretWar is the first Post-Modern generation of war.

The First Generation of Modern Warfare — think Napoleon Bonaparte — was the first attempt to scientifically control large numbers of win to violently win a political objective. Pre-Modern wars were essentially clan fighting, with “objectives” more rhetorical than operational. Think of the decades-long delay in the Muslim World to the Crusades (which had been assumed to be yet another invasion of disorganized barbarians who fight against each other as often as against civilization), or the Barbarian emphasis of Kings of Peoples (such as the King of the Franks, he who would guarantee wealth and safety to the “Free”), rather than the later emphasis on Kings of Countries (who were tied into fixed lands and thus measurable objectives). This theme would continue until 4GW — Mao Tse-tung’s “People’s War.” At every stage the higher generation of war expanded the political base of the war whiel concentrating the number of high-intensity figthers, allowing better and better leveraging of the weight of political forces.

5GW breaks this pattern.

But that is a post for another time…..

5 thoughts on “Post-Modern Christianity, Post-Modern War”

  1. Dan,

    “The First Generation of Modern Warfare — think Napoleon Bonaparte — was the first attempt to scientifically control large numbers of win to violently win a political objective.”

    Actually, commanders before Napoleon (“pre-Modern” generals like Miltiades, Themistocles, Epaminondas, Philip of Macedon, Alexander, Hannibal, Scipio Africanus, Julius Caesar, Belisarius, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, etc.) attempted to control large numbers of troops using methods that, by their standards, would be considered “scientific”. After all, warfare has always been a combination of art and science.

    To argue that throughout most of history, until the Napoleonic Wars, wars were not fought for political purposes is logically and historically unconvincing and one of the main flaws of the so-called generational theory of war. Wars fought for freedom, independence, self-determination, justice, and religion can also be considered as wars that served a rational political purpose. To assert that a war fought for existence, justice, religious, is not a “political” war is at best a dubious argument. Religious leaders or those fighting for justice, freedom, independence, self-determination, or expansion of their empires can also be political leaders. In fact many of the commanders mentioned above were also political leaders. Politics pre-dates Napoleon.

    Sun Tzu was clearly not a European and he lived more than 2,000 years before Napoleon, and the modern European state; nevertheless, he though that wars are fought for the interest of the state (or any other group). The original translation of The Art of War by Samuel B. Griffith opens with: “War is a matter of vital importance to the State; the province of life or death…” Ralph D. Sawyer’s new translation begins: “Warfare is the greatest affair of state, the basis of life and death…” Gary Gagliardi’s translation starts with: “This is war. It is the most important skill in the nation. It is the basis of life and death.” Since I am not fluent in Ancient Chinese, I have to rely on these scholars, but it seems clear to me, even accounting for the “lost-in-translation” factor that Sun Tzu believed that wars were fought for what the warring factions or states perceived to be their vital political interests. Remember too, that The Art of War was written during China’s Age of the Warring States, well before the Napoleon.

    Thucydides also believed that the states of the Greek-city states fought for their political interests. When in the opening sentence of his history of the Peloponnesian War he calls Sparta and Athens “powers (that) were at their best preparedness for war in every way, and seeing the rest of the Hellenic people taking sides with one side or the other…” he was clearly referring to a war fought by men and states for a political interest long before the term “political interest” was invented. The Athenian, Spartans, Thebans, Corinthians and later the Macedonians were more than a “clan”. The Persian forces led by Xerxes against Greece were more than a “clan”. The Chinese Warring States were bigger than mere “clans”.

    To argue that: “Pre-Modern wars were essentially clan fighting, with “objectives” more rhetorical than operational.” is simply not supported by the historical evidence. Many (if not most) military campaigns before Napoleon can be broken down in terms of “strategic”, “operational” and “tactical objectives”. The fact that the terms were not codified as such is akin to saying that “gravity” did not exist before Newton. I can cite numerous examples, but even the Battle of Megiddo, (what’s perhaps the world first recorded battle) had clear strategic objectives: Thutmose’s objective was to gain control of the Egyptian empire and expand his territorial holdings. Thutmose’s operational objective (far more than rhetorical) was the destruction of the armies of the revolting Canaanite kings. Thutmose lead his Egyptian (more than a clan as they were anywhere between 10,000 and 20,000 men depending what source you use) army against the numerically superior Canaanite coalition (more than a clan of course, the numbers are sketchy, but most historians agree that the Canaanite coalition had a numerical advantage over the Egyptians) and swiftly defeated them.

    Please don't get arrested in China.

  2. There are historical antecedents to modernity (especially the Greek City States, the Chinese Warring Kingdoms, and the Italian City States). However, the modern world has seen a more continuous and widespread use of modernity than any previous time in history.

    One example of how “modern” ideas often aren't are the Wars of Apostasy immediately following the death of Mohammed. Mohammed had united a large number of Arabian tribes in the Islamic World — but that was just rhetorical cloaking for the same sort of individual ties that had alwasy ruled. The Prophet dies, and suddenly the umma fragments exactly along the lines that existed before he rose. (What is thus notable about early Islamic political history isn't Mohammed's rule but the success of the Caliphate, a political institution that proved remarkably adaptive and successful, integrating well with its host religion.)

    Related to modernity, but not the same thing, is the issue of non-kin organizations. However, research from both methodological individualists [1] and metholodogical systemicists [2] imply non-kin group behaviors have strong genetic roots.

    That said, the Hegelian undertones of Lind's dialectical progression probably is junk. There may be a natural progression, but I'm thinking more more in the sense that there's a progression in any skill — one gets better with practice, with qualitatively leaps from time to time — but mastery is not limited to any certain age.

    Sorry for the sketchy nature of this post — the Great Wall awaits! 🙂

  3. Dan,

    Thanks for the reply. Even your so-called “sketchy” post are some of the best in the blogosphere.

    My point is (and I think you probably agree) that warfare as “a continuation of policy by other means” did not start with Napoleon. Warfare with clear operational objectives did not start with Napoleon either. Without getting into a big discussion, I prefer the term NetWar to 4GW. Since the term is there and there is already quite a bit of literature related to the subject, we'll probably have to live with 4GW for a while. The problem is, some of the “newbies” ask me, “what came before 4GW?” just because it has that progression connotation attached to it. This might actually be good as it provides a historical perspective to the discussion. And it also provides a point of departure for things like 5GW or as you call it SecretWar.

    Enjoy your time in China! Nice pictures! I did not know the air pollution was so bad over there. Take care.

  4. I'm not sure I'm following the connection between the cause and effect stuff and the generations of war.

    I take it you're saying that “cause and effect” are “modernist” as are the generations of war. While pre-modernism allowed more kinds of natural explanations than mere cause and effect. And was equally premodern in that warfare was not about the politics of the nation state.

    Am I getting you right?

    If so, it might be worth thinking about Aristotle. ( http://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/320/4causes.htm )

    Cause-and-effect style naturalism really came to dominate with the success of Newton. And in retrospect, Aristotelian physics looks pretty daft. But Aristotle formed his ideas from the study of biology. And in considering biology it's often harder to reduce everything to Newtonian-style causes rather than Aristotles four different kinds of cause. Ideas like “function” and “adaption” which seem to be necessary to understand the shape and behaviour of animals, require some kind of teleological or “intentional” language in order to explain. Often, behind some changes in terminology, you're back with Aristotle again.

    I'm intrigued by all the current talk of reversion to neo-medievalism. But I'm a bit suspicious. Although the end of modernism, the nation-state (and possibly capitalism) raises the new institutions and configurations that look a bit like a return to the premodern and feudal, I suspect this might be just what things look like when you're steeped in modernism. We might also be moving on to something far more different from either the modern or the pre-modern.

    What's inspiring, in your post, is that if we think of this as a shift to the anti-Newtonian. We might be seeing a shift to the biological / Aristotelian.

    Do you know this book? :
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0750679735/ref=sr_11_1/104-8739091-5166337?%5Fencoding=UTF8

    The author is a sort of management consultant in the cybernetic tradition who evaluates organizations as being based on one of three metaphors : the machine (mindless : with no purpose of its own and simply embodies laws of cause and effect and follows directions from outside), the biological system (uniminded : which has survival and growth as internally generated goals, and which has some kind of internal control system to follow these goals), and the society (multiminded : autonomous members with their own goals but shared purpose.

    Obviously, you can see something like John Robb's “bazaar of violence” as multi-minded organization : autonomous individual networks with a shared purpose. I suppose you could also imagine a “bazaar of peace” as the opposite. Both stand in contrast to either the view of the organization as order-following machine (feudal hierarchy) or uniminded biological system (the nation state and its army.)

  5. Phil,

    This post was written with far too little sleep on a transpacific flight, so you're probably picking on up a real incoherence. 🙂

    I like your points on Aristotle a lot, especially his systemic view of reality.

    anti-Newtonian is probably right. In Scope & Methods [1], we read a lot by those who want a “political science” (as opposed to study of politics) holding up Newtonian science (universal, mechanical, etc) as the examplar. I continuously criticized this, and my prof was sympathetic, because real science is not that way — if laws of nature can change depending on time-space coordinates in physics, why not polisci?

    John Robb's system is closer to deus ex machina than a form of systems design. Just assume people are evil and infinitely motivated, and Global Guerrillas work. In the absence of that, it doesn't.

    Sonny,

    Eep! I didn't know this much time had passed!

    I agree with your summary. The quick answer to “what came before” might be “the style of fighting that could a defeat a 4GW force 21x smaller.” 🙂

    The air is god-awful, especially in Tianjin. I'm now relieved to be back in Beijing.

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/unl_scope_methods/
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2006/05/25/tianjiin-a-pictorial-travelogue.html

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